James and Julie Petrakis, chefs and co-owners of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, are living their dream every day as they feed their growing legion of Central Florida food fans. Their shared idea of creating a gastropub has resulted in Fodor’s naming The Ravenous Pig “Orlando’s most popular foodie destination.” The restaurant also received “best chef” nominations from the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine Magazine.
Having recognized their honors in print, it was time for this food-lover to experience firsthand the taste-treats and ambience that fills this restaurant at night with happy patrons. The pleasure begins with the staff. A great sense of humor must be part of the interview process at the Pig. Everyone — from the hostess to the wait staff, the manager and even the expediters — offers service that is friendly plus. The whole idea of a gastropub is to offer the friendliness of your local tavern with food that is gastronomically excellent, and I’m happy to report that the friendliness quotient exceeds expectations.
And the gastronomy happily exceeds expectations as well.
My dining partner and I were determined to experience as many taste sensations as possible, so we began with the homemade charcuterie and cheese tray. I highly recommend this tray as your starter, especially if you’re looking for variety. I savored the lamb sausage; he loved the sweetbread terrine. I lingered happily over the chicken liver pate; he loved the pancetta toast with bacon. And on we went — happily sharing and tasting, democratically dividing all those wonderful homemade tastes right down to the pickled vegetables! Bravo to the whole tray.
In that same spirit of sharing, we tried the suckling pig and bay scallops, found lovingly nestled under a shaved apple salad. This combination is indicative of chefs James and Julie. As unexpected as the combination may sound, the individual tastes of scallop, pork and apple blend and stand with distinction under the talented hands of the chefs. My taste buds will favorably remember the amazing suckling pig for months to come.
When it came to our entrees, we went for the pub experience. I ordered the grilled lamb cassoulet, and literally did my “happy food dance” over the perfect chunks of lamb mixed to mouth-watering perfection with pieces of sausage and pulled duck, settled deliciously over the tastiest chickpea ragu ever conceived. My friend declared his marinated flat-iron steak, served with a heaping helping of “truffle” fries, to be the best steak he’d ever eaten. One understands why the fries alone are one reason diners return again and again to the Pig.
Since the Pig is a pub, we ordered draught beers. And while the Pig has a wide-ranging wine list, it seemed more appropriate to enjoy these all-American ales and lagers. My favorite was the Great Divide Lager from Denver, while my guest — a cigar smoker — went for Tampa’s Cigar City Maduro (ale) that he declared “as good — and as satisfying — as a Maduro cigar.”
Most importantly, the restaurant lives up to its young but already well-earned reputation for innovative and exceptional food. The Pig’s extensive and often-changing menu ranges from traditional pub fare to grilled seafood and homemade pastas and pretzels. Orlando natives James and Julie Petrakis give us a reason to be proud … and hungry.
The Ravenous Pig is at 1234 N. Orange Ave. in Winter Park. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch (11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m.). The bar opens at 5 p.m. Call 407-628-2333 or visit theravenouspig.com